Fronton

Fronton is an appellation for rustic red and rosé wines from the area around Fronton, a town just north of Toulouse in south-western France. This is one of the country's oldest wine-growing areas; vineyards were first planted here by the Romans. It wasn't until the 18th century, however, that the local wines gained any significant recognition. For centuries prior to this, wine from Fronton (and many other parts of the French south-west) was taxed heavily when it passed through the port of Bordeaux en route to foreign markets. This forced prices up, naturally reducing the wine's potential export market.

Fronton wines are made predominantly from Négrette, a grape variety almost exclusive to this part of France and said to have been brought here by the Knights Templar on their return from the Crusades. Négrette vines prefer hot, dry growing conditions, so the variety thrives in this area's dry, semi-continental climate. It is also particularly tuned to the acidic, sandy-clay boulbène soil type found here in Fronton (and just to the east, in Gaillac).

Négrette gives a perfumed character to the wines, which are sometimes described as having slightly "foxy" or "animal" scents, thankfully complemented by lighter, violet-like floral notes. Alongside Négrette (which must make up at least 50% of the final blend), a handful of other grape varieties may be used in Fronton wines. The most significant of these cépages accessoires are Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Syrah and Fer, although Malbec (or Côt as it is known here), Gamay, Cinsault and Merille sometimes also feature in small quantities. Fronton wines, both red and rosé, are typically best drunk within a few years of vintage.

Between 1975 (when it was originally created) and 2005, the appellation was named Côtes du Frontonnais. Today, the official Fronton viticultural area covers 20 parishes, divided roughly equally between two administrative departments: the northern tip of Haute-Garonne and a southern sliver of Tarn-et-Garonne.

The terroir here is characterised by dry heat and rocky, sandy soils. The landscape is marked by hills and valleys, ranging from 300ft to 600ft (100m to 200m) above sea level. This altitude is sufficient to increase the already high sunshine levels enjoyed by the area's vineyards. Alongside the Tarn River, which flows through the appellation's eastern edge, soils are particularly poor and gravelly. Vines grown on such sites are forced to dig deeper for nutrients, and establish a stronger root system – a struggle which ultimately strengthens the plant and (theoretically) improves the wines.
Read more ▼